House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Agriculture
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is always good to see the Liberals focus on agriculture at 12:10 p.m. on Friday. That is the only time that they ever ask questions. It is also good to see they are disconnected with agriculture because their questions are always full of misinformation.

I really object to what the member is doing today. He is following the NDP leader from yesterday. The minister answered the question yesterday.

Mr. Wells is well known as an organic farmer. If they are accusing me of saying that he was one, the NFU website says that. My question for Mr. Wells is simply this. Has he been able to take advantage of the organic grower special buy-back this year? If he has, why is he telling other farmers that they cannot have the same deal?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

March 14th, 2008 / 12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week the member from Beauséjour publicly accused the government of failing to appoint bilingual judges to New Brunswick benches.

As a member from New Brunswick, I am proud of our heritage and of the fact that ours is the only bilingual province. I would like these remarks clarified.

Could the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice correct this erroneous statement and in the process set the member opposite straight?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as a member from the province of New Brunswick, I am pleased to reply to this question.

Our government has appointed six of the forty federally appointed judges in New Brunswick. Of the six, three are fully bilingual. We are guided by the principles of merit and legal excellence, as well as thinking linguistic competence.

As the member from Beauséjour should know, it was his colleague, the member from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, who said “They look like pretty good appointments and I am glad they are filling the vacancies”. We agree.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the upcoming Olympics has led to crackdowns against human rights advocates in China. This week marks the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet against Chinese rule.

In recent days we have seen the arrest and release of Teng Biao, Beijing human rights lawyer and activist, as well as the use of force against protestors and Buddhist monks in Tibet today. What specific steps will the government take to address this situation? I do not want the general platitudes that we heard yesterday.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are alarmed at the deterioration of the situation, including increasing reports of violence. We have expressed our concerns to the Chinese ambassador and, through our embassy in Beijing, to the Chinese government. We are also asking for some clarification on the current situation in Lhasa as well as information on the whereabouts and the well-being of Canadians in the affected area.

Oral Question Period — Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

That concludes question period for today. With the consent of the House, I would like to go back briefly to the question of privilege raised yesterday by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and the statements by the hon. member for Gatineau and the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

As I mentioned yesterday, when I quoted page 433 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, I still believe that:

In most instances, when a point of order or a question of privilege has been raised in regard to a response to an oral question, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is a disagreement among Members over the facts surrounding the issue. As such, these matters are more a question of debate and do not constitute a breach of the rules or of privilege.

However, having read a letter sent to the Standing Committee on Official Languages by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, I can see that there may have been a misunderstanding about what the minister said during oral question period on March 12.

In order to clear up what was likely an misunderstanding, I believe it would be highly appropriate for the hon. minister to clarify the facts when the opportunity arises in the near future.

I thank the hon. members for their attention.

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on a point of order.

Oral Question Period — Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this is relevant and rises out of the comments you just made.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage is not here today, but she did want me to table the correspondence before the House that she provided relating to it. The suggestion was that she had indicated she was not prepared to appear at committee. Her letter to the chair of the committee, on February 25, states quite clearly the opposite. She indicates:

I will be pleased to appear before the committee to discuss the next phase of the action plan as soon as I have finished working on it.

Therefore, I think that helps complete the record and explains her answer. If you wish, Mr. Speaker, she could explain it further, but I am happy to table this document on her behalf.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the strange and almost bizarre accusation or mistake that the member for Toronto—Danforth made yesterday and the member for Malpeque has made again today.

I want to point out that I have never in fact implied, as the member for Toronto—Danforth said, that I was aware of the individual business relationship of one farmer, the head of the National Farmers Union, no less, and the Canadian Wheat Board.

Apparently what he was referring to yesterday were my comments in the House of Commons where I called Mr. Wells an organic farmer. I had asked Mr. Wells, as farmers across western Canada have asked him, to explain if he was taking the special deal that the Canadian Wheat Board offers to organic producers at the same time his organization was taking the position that other farmers should not have those same opportunities.

Mr. Wells, his neighbours, his own organization and the Internet, if you go on it, Sir, all recognize him as an organic farmers. Therefore, if that was the members' accusation, I guess they have demonstrated, once again, the failure of their research abilities, particularly the NDP.

Even with those limitations, it seems to me that both the member for Toronto—Danforth and the member for Malpeque have the responsibility to ensure they are accurate and to tell the truth.

I would appreciate if they would actually have the stomach, the guts, to stand up today to acknowledge their mistakes and apologize for their misleading comments. They have misled western Canadian farmers. They have misled the House as well. Therefore, I would appreciate that apology.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the incident that I believe the leader of the New Democratic Party yesterday brought forward and myself again today relates to a personal attack that was launched by the parliamentary secretary during the emergency debate on livestock on February 13 in the House. You can refer to that debate and see the remarks.

I have in my hand, and I would be willing to table it, a letter that is directed to the parliamentary secretary, signed by Stewart Wells, president of the National Farmers Union. He states clearly:

I am writing regarding a personal attack that you launched against me during an emergency debate on "livestock" on February 13, 2008 in the House of Commons.

You are hiding behind your parliamentary immunity by attacking me in the House of Commons, where I cannot defend myself nor can I find a remedy for your defamation through the courts. Your comments in the House of Commons are unacceptable and a disgrace to you and your party.

You have deliberately implied—

This is the meat of the evidence, Mr. Speaker:

—to the House of Commons that you know how I market my grain through the Canadian Wheat Board. The only way you could have any knowledge of my personal business dealings is if you have been abusing your powers and investigating my transactions with the Canadian Wheat Board.

On the parliamentary secretary's point that he just raised, the minister yesterday, in response to the question by the leader of the NDP, said that this information was requested from the board.

Therefore, this is a serious matter of commercial confidentiality coming from the board that the member released in the House.

Mr. Wells goes on further to say:

Have you been abusing your office as Parliamentary Secretary and investigating my personal business transactions with the Canadian Wheat Board? Either you have intimate knowledge of my business dealings with the Canadian Wheat Board, or you are lying to the House of Commons when you pretend to know how I market my grain-which is it?

I will conclude by the request that Mr. Wells made, directed to the parliamentary secretary, when he said:

Do you have the integrity required to stand in the House of Commons and apologize to your colleagues and then make a further apology to me for your unsubstantiated, defamatory, and incorrect remarks?

That relates to the point of order raised. Clearly the member has used confidential commercial information in attacking a constituent in his own riding and a president of a national farm organization.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. parliamentary secretary, a brief response, but this sounds to me like a dispute as to facts.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it may be a dispute as to the facts but he is also twisting what the minister said yesterday in the House, so I would refer you to that as well. He clearly fails to understand the issues here and has tried to mislead Canadians, western Canadian farmers in particular, and, I would suggest, the House as well.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre rising on the same point?

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do rise on the same point just briefly, if you will allow me a moment, as it was the leader of my party who asked the question yesterday that seems to have set this off.

We too are speaking on behalf of Mr. Wells who, as a private citizen and as a personal individual, had his personal and private information dragged before the House of Commons in a way that only someone with privileged inside access could have knowledge of.

I would just remind the Chair of one ruling in Marleau and Montpetit that speaks to this. I hope the parliamentary secretary is taking note and that he will pass this on to the minister from yesterday.

On page 77, under “Privileges and Immunities”, dealing with the right to free speech in the House of Commons, Speaker Parent is quoted as saying:

“...paramount to our political and parliamentary systems is the principle of freedom of speech, a member's right to stand in this House unhindered to speak his or her mind. However when debate in the House centres on sensitive issues, as it often does, I would expect that members would always bear in mind the possible effects of their statements and hence be prudent in their tone and choice of words”.

Speakers have also stated that although there is a need for Members to express their opinions openly in a direct fashion, it is also important that citizens' reputations are not unfairly attacked. In a ruling on a question of privilege, Speaker Fraser expressed his concern that an individual who was not a Member of the House had been referred to by name and noted that this concern had also been shared by some Members who had participated in the discussion....

When we drag the personal, confidential, commercial information of a private individual before this House of Commons in a way that could easily be taken as a politically slanted and biased opinion, because let us face it, the government of the day is virtually at war with the friends of the Canadian Wheat Board, the National Farmers Union and all farmers who are opposed to its ideological crusade to smash and undermine the Canadian Wheat Board, when the minister uses that information to sully the reputation or to try to smear the reputation of a private citizen, they have abused their privileges of the right to free speech in the House and left no avenue of recourse for the individual.

The flip side of the coin, of members' privilege to say whatever they want in the House, is the right of citizens to be able to defend themselves. However, they have no such recourse when those comments are made within the parliamentary privilege. That is why the Speaker has to take care that members do not abuse that privilege and malign private citizens.

Comments by Member for Malpeque and Member for Toronto—Danforth
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The Speaker has heard the points that were made today. I thank the hon. member for Malpeque, the hon. parliamentary secretary and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

As the Speaker has noted, there seems to be a dispute on fact and not a dispute related to a point of privilege. In any event, the Speaker will return to the House, if necessary, but I think that the House has heard sufficiently on that topic for moment.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

12:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I simply wish to do what I would have had the opportunity to do on Thursday but the opposition House leader did not conduct the usual role of the opposition House leader in asking the Thursday question. As a result, there has not been an opportunity, because of the failure of the opposition to play their traditional role, to advise the House of the following.

At this time, I would like to designate Monday, March 31, Tuesday, April 1, and Wednesday, April 2, as allotted days. Those will be our first three days back after the Easter break.